Notre Dame pairing big-time recruiting visitors with big-time game

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

A Notre Dame win over USC on Saturday would help validate the offseason renovation of the football program.

A Notre Dame win over USC could also be the start of a strong finish in the 2018 recruiting class.

The Irish put themselves in a good spot early in the recruiting cycle with 16 verbal commitments before the season began. That haul ranks as the No. 10 recruiting class in the country according to 247Sports and No. 11 according to Rivals. Yet the 5-1 start has yet to turn into a recruiting windfall.

Notre Dame’s last commitment — four-star wide receiver Kevin Austin — came more than two months ago. That drought may not last much longer with so much talent scheduled to visit South Bend this weekend.

The Irish will host eight uncommitted recruits for official visits over the weekend. Six more targets in the 2019 class are also expected for unofficial visits alongside 13 commits in both classes.

The visitors list is heavy on difference-makers, but that’s not uncommon for a Notre Dame night game at home. What has been uncommon as of late is commitments coming from those night games.

The last three big game weekends for recruiting — Georgia 2017, Stanford 2016, Michigan State 2016 — have produced only one pledge from a senior visitor. That came last December from offensive lineman Aaron Banks, who attended the Michigan State game.

All three of those games ended with losses for Notre Dame. A win isn’t a requirement for a successful recruiting weekend, but one Saturday over the Trojans could go a long way for the Irish.

• WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, 5-11, 175; Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei: Not only is St. Brown considered the best wide receiver in his family, many consider him the best wide receiver in the country for the 2018 class. Amon-Ra St. Brown, the younger brother of Irish junior Equanimeous St. Brown and Stanford freshman Osiris St. Brown, will get a look at two of his top schools on Saturday.

When JT Daniels, the top quarterback in the 2019 class and St. Brown’s teammate at Mater Dei, committed to USC in July, it only increased the likelihood that the youngest St. Brown ends up a Trojan. But the Irish have long been a contender.

“He’s the No.1 wide receiver in the country,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “He has fantastic hands, brilliant speed. He’s a natural wide receiver and a game breaker.”

Last Friday against St. John Bosco, St. Brown returned a punt for a touchdown and caught eight passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns.

St. Brown visited Michigan earlier this month when the Wolverines lost to Michigan State. Ohio State, Stanford and UCLA could also receive visits from St. Brown.

Rivals: Five stars, No. 1 WR | 247Sports: Five stars, No. 2 WR.

• OL Nicholas Petit-Frere, 6-6, 260; Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep: The recruiting front has been quiet for Petit-Frere in recent months, but he made enough noise in the offseason to receive a five-star rating from 247Sports in August as the No. 1 offensive tackle in the class.

The trip to Notre Dame will be his first official visit and his first time back in South Bend since a visit in March. He made unofficial visits to Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, North Carolina and Florida during that time.

“He’s outstanding. He’s one of the best tackles in the country,” Lemming said. “He has exceptional upside because he looks thin at 260 pounds. I was really impressed with his frame and his height. He can really move. This is a guy that Harry Hiestand can make into a college All-American.”

Petit-Frere was presented with his jersey for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday at his school.

247Sports: Five stars, No. 1 OT | Rivals: Four stars, No. 13 OT.

• LB Solomon Tuliaupupu, 6-2, 218; Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei: The Irish have already recruited a strong linebacker class for 2018, but there’s always a need for a player like Tuliaupupu.

“He’s one of the favorites to win the Butkus Award for best linebacker in the country,” Lemming said. “This would be a major catch for Notre Dame. He’s big and runs well. He’s a Manti Te’o-type of linebacker that Notre Dame’s looking for.”

Tuliaupupu, who became one of St. Brown’s teammates with an offseason transfer, will be making his first visit to Notre Dame this weekend. Tuliaupupu recently made a trip to Hawaii. The biggest contenders in his recruitment include USC, Ohio State and Alabama.

The Irish already have commitments at linebacker from Jack Lamb, Bo Bauer and Ovie Oghoufo. Shayne Simon, slated as a rover for the Irish, could also play linebacker.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 2 ILB | Rivals: Four stars, No. 3 ILB.

• OL Chris Murray, 6-3, 290; Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei: When offensive line coach Harry Hiestand recognized a need to expand the target list on the offensive line, Murray received a scholarship offer in August. The Irish haven’t offered any other OL recruits since then as Murray, a four-star recruit, has become a priority.

“He’s a good, solid offensive linemen who will probably wind up playing guard,” Lemming said. “He moves well. He’s a good one.”

With commitments from John Dirksen and Cole Mabry, both three-star recruits, adding Petit-Frere and Murray would boost the status of Notre Dame’s offensive line haul.

The Irish will have to fight off Stanford to land Murray. He also made an official visit to Utah earlier this season.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 5 OG | Rivals: Four stars, No. 17 OG.

• CB Tariq Bracy, 5-11, 170; Milpitas (Calif.) High: Needing a jolt in cornerback recruiting, Notre Dame could be wise in turning to Bracy as an option. The Irish quickly became a major contender with an offer from recruiting coordinator Brian Polian in May.

Bracy, though undersized, could play a number of different positions but cornerback is where the Irish have pegged him. His offer list is light on Power Five programs (California, Utah and Washington State), but that could work in Notre Dame’s favor if the coaching staff has a better eye for talent than others.

This weekend’s visit will be Bracy’s first to Notre Dame.

“Another good, three-star-type of player,” Lemming said. “Notre Dame is desperate for corners since all the big names have turned them down just about. But he’s a good, workmanlike player.”

247Sports: Four stars, No. 16 ATH | Rivals: Three stars, No. 37 ATH.

• TE Tommy Tremble, 6-4, 225; Norcross (Ga.) Wesleyan: The Irish are looking to double up on tight ends for the second consecutive class. One recruiting cycle after signing Brock Wright and Cole Kmet, who have both played as freshmen, Notre Dame has been trying to pair Tremble with Notre Dame commit George Takacs.

With Takacs as more of a traditional tight end, Tremble has been pitched a role similar to Irish junior Alizé Mack. Tremble isn’t as highly touted as Mack was as a recruit, but he has some top programs pursuing him. Tremble named Notre Dame, Georgia, UCLA, Tennessee, South Carolina and Fresno State as his top six schools in July. He has since added offers from Michigan and California.

Tremble had planned to make his official visit to Notre Dame for the Georgia game last month, but a broken ankle suffered in late August wiped out his itinerary. Tremble will be bringing his crutches to campus this weekend. He previously visited the Irish in June.

Rivals: Three stars, No. 21 TE | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 31 TE.

• CB B.J. Crim, 6-0, 195; Ocala (Fla.) Vanguard: Crim will be Notre Dame’s only guest making an official visit this weekend who has yet to receive an Irish offer. His offer status could certainly change this weekend.

Notre Dame has been keeping in regular contact with Crim. He’s been receiving the personalized recruiting graphics from the Irish staff since the summer. Crim had hoped to visit Notre Dame for the Georgia game, but he was forced to reschedule because of Hurricane Irma.

“He’s a better-than-average defensive back,” Lemming said. “He’s a good one, and definitely a guy that can play at Notre Dame.”

Crim could play either safety or cornerback, but the need for the Irish is clearly at the latter position. Crim’s offer list includes the likes of Louisville, Wake Forest, Central Florida and Iowa State.

247Sports: Three stars, No. 110 S | Rivals: Three stars.

• S Paul Moala, 5-11, 200; Mishawaka (Ind.) Penn: The local safety will catch his third Notre Dame game of the season in person Saturday. Moala attended games against Temple and Georgia, but this weekend’s trip will be a little more elaborate as an official visit.

Moala became a Notre Dame target with a strong showing at the Irish Invasion in June, which included a reported 40-yard dash of 4.46 seconds. Moala had only one Power Five offer (Iowa) before the Irish extended a scholarship. Nebraska and Vanderbilt have joined the race for Moala in recent months, but the Irish could pull ahead for good with another impressive weekend.

247Sports: Three stars, No. 34 S | Rivals: Two stars.

VISITORS LIST

The following recruits are expected to visit Notre Dame for Saturday's game against USC.

2018 targets

CB Tariq Bracy*

S Paul Moala*

OL Chris Murray*

OL Nicholas Petit-Frere*

WR Amon-Ra St. Brown*

TE Tommy Tremble*

LB Solomon Tuliaupupu*

2018 commits

WR Kevin Austin*

LB Bo Bauer*

OL John Dirksen

DT Ja’mion Franklin

WR Micah Jones

QB Phil Jurkovec*

OL Cole Mabry

LB Ovie Oghoufo

RB Jahmir Smith*

RB Markese Stepp

TE George Takacs

2018 prospects

DB B.J. Crim*

OL Luke Jones

OL Broc Jockisch

LS Mitch McCullough

DE Arak McDuffie

OL Travis Spreen Jr.

*Indicates official visit

2019 targets

DT Jowon Briggs

OL Logan Brown

OL Quinn Carroll

DB Marvin Grant

DT Mazi Smith

DE Hunter Spears

2019 commits

DT Jacob Lacey

QB Cade McNamara

2019 prospects

RB Jordan Anderson

LB Zach Bowers

OL Tanner Bowles

OL Anthony Bradford

WR Da’Shaun Brown

DT Cavon Butler

OL Marquis Cooper

DB Deondre Dansby

S Moses Douglass

DT Ikem Ekwonu

LB Osita Ekwonu

DE Colt Ellison

WR Donovan Greene

WR Demarcus Griffin

S Myles Heard

WR Kealon Jackson

CB Demarco Jones

ROV Spencer Jones

OL Trevor Keegan

LB Jack Kiser

WR Kobe Myers

WR Kalani Norris

ROV Justin Pelic

OL Carson Pharris

CB Xavier Player

LB Aidan Robbins

ATH Ainias Smith

S Titus Toler

2020 prospects

DT Anthony Baker

WR Freddy Edwards

DE Dallas Fincher

WR Julian Fleming

RB Gaige Garcia

WR Ja’Moni Jones

CB T Lee

WR EJ Oghoufo

QB Roman Purcell

QB DJ Ralph

OL Andrew Raym

OL Jake Wray

WR Adbur-Rahmaan Yaseen

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Amon-Ra St. Brown participates in the Irish Invasion at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, June 18, 2016. ND Insider Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA